We concluded the first part of our consideration upon God with the question: are our lives leading us towards God—as He intended, and which was why He made us in His own image and likeness—or are we walking a walk that is taking us away from Him? This is a question we need to resolve if it is our hope to have a place in God’s Kingdom on earth.

Therefore, we do need to see clearly in our minds what the Scriptures teach about the Way of God.

Man was first separated from God by sin and has remained so ever since, but it is important to recognise that the sins, firstly of Eve and then Adam, undoubtedly came about because they endeavoured to obtain what God purposed for them in their way, instead of faithfully following His way.

So it is necessary that the next step be to consider sin, what it is, how God’s Word defined it. Surprisingly, if we allow the Word to lead our thinking on this subject, it will show us the way back to God, with a clearer perception of His way and enable us to develop a deeper and more beautiful personal relationship with Him.

It is our purpose to consider two of the aspects upon which it is imperative that our understanding is clear, if we are to realise our hope of becoming closer to God.

They are:

  1. Sin, what is it? that is, explore briefly what the Bible says about it; then
  2. Who is God? And what does He require of us?

Both of these subjects we tend to mentally shy away from: “sin” because of its personal implications now and in the future, and “God” because we perhaps feel the subject is too high for our limited capacities. However, if we are to discover God’s way and walk in it towards Him, it is necessary to discover the truth about sin.

What is Sin?

So, what is sin?—our minds can quickly give the easy answer, “disobedience to God’s commandments”. But is this answer adequate? There are definitions of sin in God’s word that will be helpful and enlarge our understanding of this subject.

Let’s look at four of them:

1 1 John 3:4–6 tells us that “sin is transgression of the law” or, literally, lawlessness; acting as if there is no law, which we know there is, involving not only what we do but also why we do it.

2 James 4:17 defines sin this way: “to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin”; that is, sins of omission.
3 Romans 14:22–23 gives us Paul’s warning that “whatsoever is not of faith is sin”; that is, sin is living in conflict with the spirit of the Truth.
4 Romans 3:23 sets out the best overall definition: “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”, that is, living in a way that does not glorify God.

Obviously there are other passages that could be used, but these will suffice to show that “sin” is not merely a word for “disobedience”, but has much wider implications.

Each one of these definitions requires our full attention.

Firstly, in 1 John 3 the apostle, in speaking of sins of commission, uses terms that clearly show disobedience is not just some accident of inattention, but indeed comes from an inner lawlessness that we have not brought into subjection to the way of Christ. Further, the sense of this passage shows that it is a determination to follow our way, to do what we want to do, to become what we want to become regardless of what God wants.

Secondly, the apostle James’ words are something of a challenge, too. Not only should we be aware of things we do that are wrong, but also be aware of things we omit to do that are right. Such an awareness can only come from our continuing association with the Word of life. This surely emphasises one of the great benefits of doing our daily readings, which daily instruct us not only about God’s purposes, but also make us aware each day of God speaking to us and setting before us His way.

Thirdly, the apostle Paul is perhaps even more challenging in his definition in Romans 14:23. The literal sense of his words are: whatsoever is not “out of” faith is sin. Perhaps we could express it this way: if our life-style is not a product of our faith in the great truths and promises of God’s Word, then, says Paul, “it is sin”. Each one of these definitions becomes more challenging, doesn’t it? They impress us, hopefully, that God’s Way requires all our attention, all our endeavours and our constant prayers for His guidance and help in The Way.

Fourthly, again it is Paul who gives the most succinct and challenging definition of all in Romans 3:23. This is clearly telling us that the objective of our lives day by day should be to glorify God, as our Lord did in the fullest sense in his life; that is, to reveal that goodness and truth that originate in Him, in all we do and say. Anything that “comes short” or is deficient of the Gory of God, is sin—a humbling thought indeed.

The Glory of God

We are now drawn paradoxically in our consideration of “What is Sin”, to the need to be clear in our understanding of what is the glory of God and to know Who and What He is and will be, so that we can positively strive to follow God’s Way. Surely the steps of our Master in His life will reveal the Way in which he revealed the Glory of God to men and became therefore the example we can strive to follow.

However, before turning our focus upon what Scripture tells us about God’s glory, let us consider one other definition of “sin”—that is, the Hebrew meaning of the word “SIN” itself. Strong’s Concordance tells us that the Hebrew word most commonly translated “sin” is chattah, from a root word meaning “to miss the mark”. It is intriguing that the Greek word hamartia also means “to miss the mark”. So when we do things we know are wrong, or fail to do the things that we know are right, or walk contrary to the calling we have in Christ, then we are missing the mark.

From whatever perspective therefore we consider sin, God is telling us that sin is “missing the mark”. What then is the mark? There can be no doubt as we read them, that the Scriptures set before us constantly that God Himself is the Mark, the Object of consideration. For it is in knowing Him that we shall come assuredly and confidently to understand what God requires of us and be able to see clearly the “Way of God”. Passages such as Numbers 14:21, “As truly as I live all the earth shall be filled with the glory of Yahweh [He who will be]”, and Ephesians 5:1, “Be ye therefore followers [imitators] of God as beloved children” point us unerringly to the mark. That must become the focus of our lives. The glory in which we are deficient when we sin is that glory which belongs alone to our Heavenly Father.

However, it is impossible to aim truly at “the mark” if we cannot see it. Likewise, it is necessary to seek the only authoritative source of information about The Glory if we are to understand how we “fall short” of it. Thankfully we are not left without information or clear instructions about God’s Way and the characteristics that make up the glory of God.

Moses at Sinai

In Exodus 33:13–18 Moses confronts this same issue. He asks of Yahweh two things.

Firstly, “Show me Thy Way that I may know thee” (v13). The context clearly shows Moses was not asking the way to the Promised Land; rather, that if he was to fulfil Yahweh’s commission to bring His people into the hope of the promises, he must know the Way, morally and spiritually, that he and the people of Israel must follow.

This leads to the second request: “Show me Thy GLORY” (v18). Moses needed to be able to see clearly what Yahweh required of him and His people if they were to reveal God’s glory. Paul’s guidance in Romans 3:23 is the same, that we are sinners when we “come short”, or be behind, or deficient in building into our daily lives the things that make up God’s glory. Therefore we, too, need to see clearly God’s Way, to be careful that nothing deflects us from heading in the right direction.

God’s reply to request number one is in verse 19, in which He tells Moses: “I will make all My goodness pass before thee and I will proclaim the name of Yahweh before thee.”

But regarding request number two in verse 20, God’s reply is “No”! Moses could “not see the glory”, for “thou canst not see My face: for there shall no man see Me, and live.”

The sequel to this is in Exodus 34:5–8, where Moses hears the proclamation of the things that make up God’s way, God’s GOODNESS, His Name. In this wonderful piece of instruction, God sets before Moses and us “the MARK” for which we are to aim, that we might be imitators of Him.

Likewise in this “proclamation”, in verse five, God reveals the significance to Moses, to Israel and to us, of God’s Name given previously to Moses at the burning bush (Exod 3:13–16). In that place God showed He would be revealed in mighty ones who would come out of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Exodus 34:6–7 tells us not only what God is Himself but what these mighty ones out of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob must endeavour to be now, if they are to be part of the glory to come. Our calling is to exalt the glory of God’s character in our lives. This is the MARK, the TARGET, the objective of our lives in Christ. These are the characteristics we are to seek to “imitate” and which will identify us as those who are of “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” and true brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore to SIN (miss the mark) is to conduct our lives in a way that negates these characteristics that are part of God’s nature.

He Hath Declared Him

A development of the above theme in Exodus is provided in John’s gospel. In his wonderful introduction in chapter 1, the apostle shows how the WORD (the logos—the proclaiming of God’s eternal purpose) became flesh and dwelt among men and revealed, in living form, the GLORY OF GOD (v14). The description is significant because it uses words taken from Exodus 34:6 that summarise the Glory—namely grace and truth. So what the apostle “beheld” was the “proclamation” of Exodus 34:5–6 in the person of God’s son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Word was made flesh! John now in verse 17 makes the comparison—Moses was “given the Law” (ie written on stones) but “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ”.

Furthermore, John, to make sure we see the full significance of the message in verse 14, then directs us in verse 18—“No man hath seen God at any time”—to Exodus 33:20, “Thou shalt not see My face: for there shall no man see Me, and live”. However, the apostle saw Jesus in his life portray a living manifestation of God, a living manifestation of the moral glory of God, full of grace and truth.

The concluding statement of verse 18, that Jesus was a living “DECLARATION” (exegesis) of God, sets before us the mark we must aim at in our life.

Jesus’ words in John 14:6, “I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me”, do indeed say it all.

So do the beautiful words of the apostle Paul: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Cor 4:6–7).

Therefore let us all strive each day to keep this mark, this way of God, in our minds and through His grace and with His help, walk faithfully therein.